Politics

Obama administration invokes ‘state secrets’ claim to defend Bush’s wiretapping program.

The Obama administration is “invoking government secrecy in defending the Bush administration’s wiretapping program” against a lawsuit brought by AT&T customers who claim “federal agents illegally intercepted their phone calls and gained access to their records.” Justice Department lawyers yesterday demanded dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation against Bush officials, arguing that the information constitutes privileged “state secrets.” Moreover, the DOJ claims the Patriot Act bars lawsuits against “illegal government surveillance unless there is ‘willful disclosure’ of the illegally intercepted communications.” The SF Chronicle reports:

Disclosure of the information sought by the customers, “which concerns how the United States seeks to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security,” Justice Department lawyers said in papers filed Friday in San Francisco.

Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a lawyer for the customers, said Monday the filing was disappointing in light of the Obama presidential campaign’s “unceasing criticism of Bush-era secrecy and promise for more transparency.”

Glenn Greenwald argues, “In other words, beyond even the outrageously broad ‘state secrets’ privilege invented by the Bush administration and now embraced fully by the Obama administration, the Obama DOJ has now invented a brand new claim of government immunity, one which literally asserts that the U.S. Government is free to intercept all of your communications (calls, emails and the like) and — even if what they’re doing is blatantly illegal and they know it’s illegal — you are barred from suing them unless they ‘willfully disclose’ to the public what they have learned.”